The city of Minneapolis spends a lot of money settling lawsuits against police officers – $11.8 million since 2010.
A group called Committee for Professional Policing isn't happy that taxpayers are picking up the tab. They believe that forcing cops to carry their own private insurance — the same way that doctors and plumbers do — would make bad cops think twice before beating down on civilians.
“It’s going to make Minneapolis a safer place to live because people are not going to have to interact with officers who aren’t held accountable to their actions, and they act knowing that,” says CfPP spokesman Cole Yates.
The campaign has been a long time in the making. The first time CfPP tried to collect signatures, they got to 3,000 before their offices in the Walker Church burned down in an unexplained fire. When the city rewrote its entire constitution in plain language in 2013, they had to start from scratch again.
After three years of petitioning in this third drive, CfPP finally has more than 7,000 signatures to put the question before voters on the November ballot. The city still has to determine whether it meets state law.
The hope is that if a private insurer sees that an officer has 50 or 60 complaints and has cost the city millions of dollars over the course of his career, the insurer would ultimately refuse to cover that cop. An uninsured cop is an unemployable cop.
“There are a lot of complaints that are unfounded and the officer is not in the wrong, I will grant that,” Yates says. “This is really intended for a small handful of rogue officers. An insurance provider will look at an officer like police union president Bob Kroll and say there’s no way we’re going to insure a guy like that, a man with that kind of record.”
The city can still pay the base rate for the insurance, but any overages would be the responsibility of the officer.
It’s impossible to tell exactly how much each officer’s premium would be. Forcing cops to pay for professional liability insurance hasn’t been done anywhere else, though the idea has been floated by activists across the country.
Police union boss Bob Kroll is unimpressed.
“This group is so naïve. Our labor contract provides that the city will insure us,” he says. “They can get all the signatures they need to get on the ballot, they can have every American sign for it, and it’s not going to change our labor agreement.”
The city can try to renegotiate the contract, but Kroll promises it won’t happen as long as he heads the union. Not unless cops got massive wage increases to make up for it.
Kroll isn’t happy that Minneapolis pays so much in police settlements either. He believes that the city should fight every lawsuit. Back in 1996, Kroll personally shot a man after the man pointed a shotgun at cops. The man went to prison for six years. When he got out, he sued the city and received $12,000. “Go-away money,” Kroll calls it.
“The way things are going in Minneapolis, what if they made it illegal to be police? That would be the next thing,” he says. “What if they made it illegal for police to ever get a raise? What if they made it illegal for the police officers to carry guns? All this is crazy stuff to begin with. It’s really nutjob crazy stuff to even consider.”
Here’s the actual language of the proposed amendment:
Section 7.3(a)(2) Police Officers. Each peace officer appointed in the police department must be licensed as required by law. Each such licensed officer may exercise any lawful power that a peace officer enjoys at common law or by general or special law, and may execute a warrant anywhere in the county. Each appointed police officer must provide proof of professional liability insurance coverage in the amount consistent with current limits under the statutory immunity provision of state law and must maintain continuous coverage throughout the course of employment as a police officer with the city. Such insurance must be the primary insurance for the officer and must include coverage for willful or malicious acts and acts outside the scope of the officer’s employment by the city. If the City Council desires, the city may reimburse officers for the base rate of this coverage but officers must be responsible for any additional costs due to personal or claims history. The city may not indemnify police officers against liability in any amount greater than required by State Statute unless the officer’s insurance is exhausted. This amendment shall take effect one year after passage.